Even after rough offseason news, Saints can still surprise in 2021

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Jameis Winston, Adam Trautman
(Photo: Parker Waters)

For the New Orleans Saints, the hits keep coming.

Defensive tackle David Onyemata, one of the best interior pass rushers in the NFL, announced on social media that he’s suspended for the first six games of the season for use of a banned substance.

Wide receiver Michael Thomas, the All-Pro who caught an NFL record 149 passes in 2019, had ankle surgery that will cause him to miss games early in the season.

If you are looking for reasons why the Saints might take a precipitous dip in 2021, they are all around.

Hall of Fame quarterback Drew Brees retired.

Wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders, who had 61 catches a the Saints leading receiver last year, was a cap casualty and signed with the Buffalo Bills.

Cornerback Janoris Jenkins, another cap casualty, signed with the Tennessee Titans. He was arguably the Saints best corner in 2020, allowing a completion percentage of only 58.8.

Defensive end Trey Hendrickson, weeks after a break out 2020 season, signed a mega free agent deal with the Cincinnati Bengals.

The NFL added a 17th game, and the Saints, playing a first place schedule, draw the short straw with a November game at Tennessee, last season’s AFC South champions.

In this offseason, there was plenty of negative Black and Gold news to go around.

And yet, here’s why the New Orleans Saints can be a playoff team in 2021.

The Bears, yes, the Bears, made the most recent postseason with an 8-8 record and lost to the Saints in the Wild Card playoffs in January.

A year ago, only five teams in the NFC were double-digit win teams. Seven in the NFC won six or games or less, and in 2021, the Saints play seven games against those teams.

Even though New Orleans will play a first place schedule, their slate is ranked 27th in the NFL.

Here’s what I think can happen. Quarterback Jameis Winston, who threw 33 touchdown passes in 2019, finds a football re-birth in New Orleans and throws more than 30 TD passes again but cuts his interception total from a mind boggling 30 in Tampa that year to a manageable 15.

Or quarterback Taysom Hill becomes a two-way threat at the quarterback position and posts more games like the 232 yards passing and 83 yards rushing he compiled in a 2020 start against the Atlanta Falcons.

The Saints, without Michael Thomas, feature Deonte’ Harris more in the offense. The diminutive Harris has plenty more games like his 7-catch effort for 83 receiving yards in the club’s playoff win over Chicago.

With three offensive lineman in the top five on the club in average salary, New Orleans will run the football and shorten games, winning with few turnovers, outstanding defense and a terrific kicking game.

The Saints also get plenty of early juice from their first three draft picks – defensive end Payton Turner, linebacker Pete Werner and cornerback Paulson Adebo. Meanwhile. their first two picks in the 2018 draft, defensive end Marcus Davenport and wide receiver Tre’Quan Smith, turn potential into consistent production.

And good forture, something of which the Saints have seen little from the football Gods, finally gives back.

The 2021 Saints start training camp as mystery.

You can make a case for 10 wins or 10 losses.

Is your glass half full or half empty?

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Ed Daniels

WGNO Sports Director/106.1 FM

Ed is a New Orleans native, born at Baptist Hospital. He graduated Rummel High School, class of 1975, and subsequently graduated from Loyola University. Ed started in TV in 1977 as first sports intern at WVUE Channel 8. He became Sports Director at KPLC TV Channel 7 in Lake Charles in 1980. In 1982 he was hired as sports reporter…

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